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Masterclass 2: Towards a New Critique of Political Economy

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Room B34

Birkbeck, University of London

Malet St

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WC1E 7HX

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Masterclass: Towards a New Critique of Political Economy
Session 2: Two Strategic Categories: ‘Human Capital’ and ‘Liquidity’

Speaker: Etienne Balibar, Emeritus Professor (Political and Moral Philosophy), Université Paris-Ouest Nanterre and Anniversary Chair in Modern European Philosophy, Kingston University, London

The Classes will outline and substantiate the claim that, 150 years now from the publication of Karl Marx’s Capital, Volume One (the only volume completed by the author in his lifetime), the necessity of a ‘critique of political economy’ is more evident than ever, but requires a drastic new formulation. This is not to be conceived in the ‘historicist’ mode of rectifying Marx’s analyses in the light of ‘recent’ developments in the capitalist economy and its social conditions, but, more radically, in the form of a ‘critique of the critique’ that addresses basic epistemological obstacles in Marx’s conceptual apparatus, and a rethinking of the relationship of capitalism with historical time. It is meant to contribute to answering the vexing question: how to reinvent politics when the capitalist economy has produced a real neutralization of the political.

Session 2: As Marx identified labour and money as the two poles of his analysis of the ‘essential relation’ that generates the accumulation of capital, we must return to economic discourse to investigate the transformation of ‘labour power’ into ‘human capital’, and the incorporation of finance into production in the form of ‘liquidity’ or structural indebtment.

Suggested readings:

  • Etienne Balibar: “Marx’s Two Discoveries” (translated from Actuel Marx, 2011/2, No 50); “Politics of the Debt” (Postmodern Culture, Volume 23, Number 3, May 2013)
  • Gary S. Becker: Human Capital and the Personal Distribution of Income: An Analytical Approach, The Woytinski Lecture N. 1, Institute of Public Administration and Department of Economics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 1967
  • David Harvey: Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism, Oxford University Press 2014.
  • Robert Meister: “Liquidity” (Chapter 4 of Derivatives and the Wealth of Societies, edited by Benjamin Lee and Randy Martin, The University of Chicago Press, 2016)
  • Immanuel Wallerstein et al.: Does Capitalism Have a Future? Oxford University Press 2013.

Etienne Balibar, born 1942, was a student and collaborator of Louis Althusser with whom (and other friends) he co-authored Reading Capital in 1965. He has taught at Universities and Research Centers in France, Algeria, The Netherlands, Italy, Mexico, Argentina, the United States of America, the United Kingdom. Currently Anniversary Chair in Modern European Philosophy at Kingston University, London, and Visiting Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University, New York. His most recent publications (in English) are: Equaliberty. Political Essays (Duke University Press), Violence and Civility. On the Limits of Political Philosophy (Columbia University Press), Citizenship (Polity), Citizen Subject. Foundations for Philosophical Anthropology (Fordham University Press).

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Room B34

Birkbeck, University of London

Malet St

London

WC1E 7HX

United Kingdom

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